Photo: Michael Shafrir
After a recent post on 10 Ways To Nail Your Next Interview, readers responded with their own advice. One comment that stands out is from MIT Sloan student Michael Shafrir. After graduation he’s heading to McKinsey’s New York City office to be an associate in its business technology practice.
Here’s what he had to say:
One of the best parts of my MBA program was the recruiting process. I say “best” in the context of learning about interviews and how I performed in them. During internship recruiting season we would prep and prep and prep and then go through multiple rounds with multiple firms in the span of a few weeks. It was intense but it created a large enough data set from which to draw on so that there was a huge amount of improvement from my first year to my second year (and presumably in the rest of my career). A few tips I gleaned (and I had interviewed plenty before and given many interviews, especially during my career at TheLadders):
1) Know thy resume — if it’s on your resume, it’s fair game. I think a lot of candidates assume that a minor point buried at the bottom of your resume won’t be brought up, but I had multiple interviews where they started with “tell me about your time at the Heath School” which was my first job out of college, 10 years ago.
2) Write the headlines — I learned to start all my answers with a succinct headline. “Tell me about your time at TheLadders?” “I spent five years at TheLadders and held multiple roles in sales, customer service, and business development.” It sounds (too) short to answer the question like that, but that question is often a throwaway to start a more specific line of questioning, so why start rambling in directions the interviewer isn’t interested in. In these cases give the headline and MAYBE another line or two, then let the interviewer guide you into a deeper dive.
3) Seriously, write all the headlines — it’s important to not just have headlines for your resume bullet points, but also for the behaviorally-focused questions. I prepared headlines and short elaborations for the key questions that seem to come up in every interview: “What accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?” and “Tell me about a time when you disagreed with someone and what the outcome was?” The headline gives the interviewer something to write down as notes so that they can then listen to the rest of your answer.
4) Quit while you’re ahead. You’re nervous. You’re excited. You’re on a roll. But the more and more you talk, the more you start to stray from your headline. Watch the interviewer. When they look down at your resume to start formulating their next question, wrap your question up (ideally referencing your headline to really drive home your main point).
5) Acknowledge the negatives, but focus on the positives. No one is perfect. In response to a question about a time I had failed in a previous job, I used to tell a story about a time when I really failed at TheLadders. Fair enough. But I never spun it into a positive and told my interviewer what I had learned until my second year of interviewing. That is, after all, what that question is really asking. It’s not disingenuous to say “I had a really bad experience doing X, Y, and Z which led to this, but the next time it came I applied what I had learned about A, B, and C which led to a positive outcome the next time around.”
6) Finish with [this] gold-star question — “In my first year on the job, how do I help you, my new manager, get a gold star?” Practice saying it out loud a few times before your interview since it’s a bit of an awkward question the first couple of times.
7) Have fun — you get to talk about yourself for a half-hour or an hour. What’s so bad about that?
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